Agency begins putting 'common table' plan into legislation
5/29/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
By United Methodist News ServiceA
United Methodist agency is beginning work on legislation for creating a
single "Connectional Table" of church leaders who would coordinate the
denomination's work worldwide.
During three conference calls in
May, members of the denomination's General Council on Ministries worked
on details of their "Living Into the Future" proposal, outlining a
vision for a global common table, where annual conferences, agencies and
other entities would meet to guide the church's programs. A committee
of the council is preparing legislation for the full group to consider
in September. The proposal then would go to General Conference, the
denomination's top lawmaking body, next spring in Pittsburgh.
document is still subject to revision, with the council's executive
committee meeting July 9-10 in Detroit, "and final action on whatever
legislation describes this proposal will not be taken until September,"
said Daniel K. Church, top staff executive of the Council on Ministries
in Dayton, Ohio. The council coordinates the work of most of the
During a May 8 conference call, the
council voted 24-6 to affirm the concept of the Connectional Table. The
document itself was approved in parts during the three calls.
of the council spent considerable time discussing the composition of
the common table, which would comprise about 100 people from a cross
section of church roles and geographic areas. Concern about where the
members would come from has spurred the development of an alternative
proposal by church members in the Southeastern Jurisdiction, which has
more United Methodists than any other U.S. area.
After the last
conference call, Church said the number of people sitting at the table
is a secondary issue. Most important, he said, is having "a conciliar
setting where the ministries of the church and the resources of the
church are brought together for discussion and decision-making by a
group of faithful stewards who have a comprehensive, holistic view" of
the general church. Such a table would bring the traditional functions
of the Council on Ministries and the church's General Council on Finance
and Administration to a common place, he said.
proposal, the governing boards of both councils would be dissolved and
their functions moved to the Connectional Table - an idea that was
opposed by some Council on Ministries members. The remaining agencies
would keep their boards, and 10 of them would have voice and vote at the
"It's a significant step in developing a holistic view,
even though the governing boards are still expected to exist," Church
Ongoing work on the churchwide budget for 2005-08 could
affect the ultimate proposal. At a May 19-22 meeting, the Council on
Finance and Administration emphasized the importance of spending less on
administering the denomination's programs. (See UMNS story #295,
"Church finance agency seeks new level of efficiency," May 23.) The
church is in a budget squeeze, and individual finance council members
hinted at the possibility of realigning some of the general agencies - a
move that would have a bearing on the "Living Into the Future"
The Council on Ministries' meeting in September will include joint sessions with the Council on Finance and Administration.
updated draft of the proposal will be posted online soon at
gcom-umc.org. "We will welcome comment and hope that people will be in
dialogue with us," Church said.
Council representatives also will
meet with General Conference delegations this summer to share the
proposal and receive comments and questions.
During May, the
council also approved by written ballot three initiatives for
recommendation to General Conference as "special programs" for the
church's 2005-08 period of work, subject to consultation with the
Council of Bishops. Those programs are the Holistic Strategy for Africa,
the Holistic Strategy for Latin America and the Caribbean and an
initiative on Children, Poverty and Violence.
A special program,
described in the church's Book of Discipline, is a four-year emphasis
approved by General Conference and assigned to one of the denomination's
The council also approved a $230 million minimum for
the World Service Fund to support the work of the denomination's program
agencies in the next four-year period. That figure, along with the
GCOM's operating budget, was presented to the church's Council on
Finance and Administration during its May meeting.
constraints have led to the Council on Ministries to cut its own staff
this year. It laid off three of its 17 employees in May, though the
laid-off workers agreed to continue at the agency until no later than
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